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Texas steps up their geothermal energy game with new initiatives

Texas might just be America’s new geothermal energy leader thanks to some incredible initiatives. The Cockrell School of Engineering, for instance, got a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy, and Texas is also launching unique initiatives with the goal of making The University of Texas the national leader for geothermal energy expertise and startups.

This new initiative, which has been named the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization, or GEO for short, will gather researchers, engineers, and entrepreneurs so they can develop technologies and create companies that will advance the geothermal energy industry. This organization will be led by Bob Metcalfe and Jamie Beard, from the Cockrell School’s Innovation Center. The aim is to provide leverage to areas of excellence in geosystems and drilling engineering at the University of Texas so that geothermal technology can be furthered and matured.

The GEO will engage the University of Texas’s Jackson School of Geosciences, the College of Natural Sciences, the Bureau of Economic Geology, and more than 20 energy research centers at the University of Texas. This expertise from all these different groups will be complemented with the great community of entrepreneurs on campus and in Austin. The concept is quite straightforward because it’s all about taking the experience and knowledge gathered by the high-temperature, high-pressure well drilling in the oil and gas industry and then using that to drill for heat, which would be a tremendous CO2-free energy source.

The initiative wants to take advantage of the intellectual capital Texas has to offer, including the geosciences leadership and the drilling knowledge, to build the future of geothermal energy. Technologies and methodologies developed in Texas over the years, together with new innovations, would make the state a pioneer in the clean-energy future. The best part is that, by doing this, Texas could make geothermal energy a common utility in just a decade.

As you may already know by now, geothermal energy is created by taking heat from the Earth’s core and then converting it into energy. The GEO will focus on the development and commercialization of advanced high-temperature and high-pressure drilling tools that will allow geothermal energy production to become more available and commonplace on a worldwide scale. In other words, the mission is to create drilling technologies that are inexpensive and that will be able to reach depths of up to 30,000 feet and operate at temperatures of over 350 degrees Celsius (662 °F). The goal is quite ambitious, because it’s about making geothermal energy production more reliable anywhere in the world, not just in places where it’s easier to harvest the heat from the Earth’s core.

This initiative can actually accomplish even more than that by providing the option to gas and oil companies of adopting more sustainable processes while still doing what they already do: drill the most difficult wells found on Earth. To say that the University of Texas’s new organization has an ambitious mission is an understatement, but I’m confident this initiative will succeed and change the face of geothermal energy production for good.

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